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Lot 47. A large Ottoman talismanic shirt (jama) with extracts from the Qur'an and prayers, Turkey, 16th-17th century; 108 by 123cm. Estimate 50,000 — 70,000 GBP. Lot sold 100,000 GBP (115,940 EUR).Courtesy Sotheby's.

cotton shirt (jama) covered with text written in a variety of scripts, including thuluth, and square Kufic, in assorted colours, arranged in numerous panels, roundels, cartouches and lines, within bespoke perspex case.

inscriptions: The inscriptions include quotations from the Qur'an,chapters II (al-baqara), part of verse 137; XLVIII (al-fath) verse 3; XVII (al-isra’), part of verse 79; XIII (al-ra’d), part of verse 28; III (al-‘imran), part of verse 160 and invocations to God in mirrored form and the Beautiful Names of God (asma’ al-husna) in individual roundels and squares. They are written in a variety of styles (including thuluthnaskh, angular Kufic (ma’qali)), and different forms: large (jali), small (khafi), minute (ghubar), mirrored (muthanna); reserved against black or minute (ghubar) text and in many colours and sizes. Those in angular Kufic (in squares, octagons, bands and in colours or reserved against black) contain: the shahada; the names God and Muhammad (4 times); the names Muhammad and the four Orthodox Caliphs; ‘Praise be to God’ (4 times); Qur’an, chapter II (al-baqara), verse 255; CVII-CXIV (al-ikhlas, al-falaq, al-nas) and II (al-baqara), verse 285.

This is an unusual and finely executed Qur'an jama. The basic layout related to other jamas of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with a large number of panels and roundels containing Qur'anic quotations, pious phrases, prayers and talismanic numbers, but here their arrangement is unusually varied and inventive, with a number of distinctly Ottoman features such as the architectural references on the reverse of the jama with a large door flanked by Kufic cartouches on two sides and tilework above. What is also particularly noteworthy is the accomplished quality of the calligraphy, which is executed in a number of different scripts, and retains a confident aesthetic in even its most minute form. The amalgamation of all the decorative and calligraphic styles is a technique visible on other comparable talismanic shirts including the jama of Cem Sultan (TKS13/1404, see Roxburgh 2005, pp.300-1, no.257) and that of Mehmed II (TKS13/1408, published in Palace of Gold and Light, Treasures from the Topkapi, exhib. cat, Istanbul, 2000, pp.66-69, no.A7).

The present shirt and its decoration relate to a group of Ottoman shirts now housed in the Topkapi Palace Museum which all date from the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries. A similar talismanic shirt was sold in these rooms 25 April 2012, lot 419. 

Sotheby's. Arts of the Islamic World including Fine Rugs and Carpets, London, 01 May 2019, 10:30 AM